Hikaru no Go
|Hikaru no Go|
|Original Manga||Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata|
|Format||Anime (TV), Manga|
|Made By||Studio Pierrot|
|Episode Length||23 minutes|
|# of Episodes/Volumes|| 75 (anime)|
Sum it up in a Sentence
Shindou Hikaru gets haunted by a Go ghost, and sets out on a journey from complete Go newbie to one of the strongest young players in Japan.
Shindou Hikaru is your average high school kid, but when he decides to investigate his grandfathers attic he finds a Go board with a mysterious blood stain that only he can see. As he touches the mark, Shindou becomes haunted by the ghost of Sai, the strongest player in the history of Go. Sai has only one wish, to master the "divine hand", the ultimate pinnacle of Go.
Initially Shindou is simply annoyed by the ever lurking presence of Sai and allows Sai to play Go through Shindou's body to appease him. One day, Shindou plays against another kid his own age, Touya Akira, and defeats him, not knowing that Touya is a Go player of extraordinary strength himself.
From here the plot spirals; Touya is distraught by his defeat and seeks ever increasing measures to pursue the legendary strength he witnessed in his game against Shindou, as Shindou discovers his own talent at the game and begins his own pursuit of Touya.
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I think liking this series really depends heavily upon how much you can stomach the game of Go. I first learned the game five years ago but forgot all about until this series brought it back to mind. This series did inspire me to pickup the game again and learn all it's intricacies which created some amusing situations when you could point out how stupid people are being. The series animation isn't the best with many shots making the best out of non animated shots. A class thing to watch for is any match in which someone looses. Learning how to recognise someone raising their trousers just above their knees and clenching their teeth is a great sight. WHEN LOSE GO CLENCH KNEES AND RAISE TROUSERS is the clear sociological indicator.
This is one of my favorite series of all time, but I'm biased since I'm a go player myself and HnG (Hikaru no Go) was the series that got me into anime (ironic, since HnG usually turns anime viewers into Go players). It is shounen sports distilled into its very essence; the raw emotion between a clash of opposing wills, the single-minded intensity and obsession that drives people to stand above all others. It is textbook Show, Don't Tell; why have a player monologue to themselves "Man, I'm losing pretty badly" when you can show them sweat, clench their fists, and gnash their teeth? After a while you become very good at telling who is winning a Go match even from a blind cut to their facial expressions. This compactness of dialogue lets the show move at a pretty good pace outside of Go matches while keeping the drama real and relatable. Speaking of drama, it deviates from shounen convention in that everyone comes from stable, supportive, financially sound families. No dead relatives, no prepackaged sob stories (with one exception that happens during the show), all drama is emergent. It does, however suffer some shounen pacing issues during the Go matches themselves; the show really pushes the limits on how many ways you can show a person put a stone on a board.
The animation is dated but the directoral work is solid. It relies on creative use of perspective, framing, and lots of panning to really make each scene tell its full thousand words with as little dialogue as possible. Character design is very good; you literally see the characters grow from children to teenagers before your eyes. Aside from the haunting Go spirit, it is 100% realistic; kids really do become professional Go players at such a young age, and pro players really are that overwhelmingly strong against normal people. It doesn't hurt that most games played are taken from real-life pro matches. When a character says "That was a pretty good move, it surrounds and attacks at the same time", it is a statement of objective fact that a real-life pro player probably said when studying the actual game that HnG copied.
In summary, Hikaru no Go is a fundamentally sound Shounen Sports anime that will make you emotional if you can forgive its few flaws.